King Los - "Fear"
Something that I think has thankfully returned to Hip Hop as of late is the storytelling rapper. Since Slick Rick perfected the craft many moons ago, we've had several artists throughout time dabble in that form of rhyming. However, this new generation of artists are really entering Rap from that angle. Of course, we've seen Kendrick Lamar do it, and on "Fear," King Los is doing it. He does it well in fact. "Fear" takes Polaroids of Los' life from six years ago, and he tells various tales - from snitching to illegal activity, failed romance, you name it. His lines are on point doubling as morals of the story: Life's a jungle, you might as well be a lion in it / or you don't exist in this world, you just dying in it. The song is informative and poignant, and while King Los seems to bounce back and forth between meaningful bars and party tracks, he really nails the art of storytelling. Slick Rick would be proud. - Kathy Iandoli (@Kath3000)
Torae featuring Pharoahe Monch - "What's Love"
Last night, traveling through the Midwest I stopped at an old CD/record pawn shop. I found O.C.'s Jewelz for $2.50 in a used CD bin. Even though I've already bought the album in various formats numerous times, I wanted it, right then and there, as it's been some time since I listened. Right away, I was thinking how great Pharoahe Monch is in the feature role as the disc got to "War Games." His whole career, Monch brings energy and excitement to records with his range and lyrical dexterity, but he never seems out to break apart the collaboration's chemistry by goin' for self. Like O.C., Torae is not an emcee who needs star-studded features to drive interest and he's never relied on them to make his projects pop. If anything, both acts invest in quality production to complement their styles. One could argue that this week's "What's Love" is the biggest collab Torae's done in his career. Whatever the matter, it's one of the dopest since his work work with all three's onetime label-mate, Skyzoo in the late 2000s. "What's Love" takes on an approach akin to Main Source on "Peace Is Not The Word To Play," analyzing how much the term "peace" is used versus acted out. Tor and P do the same with "love" at a time when "the movement" isn't felt too much these days. This record is extremely topical, and sounds amazing without harping on concept. Not only was this record my favorite "slept-on" of recent, it was just flat-out my favorite. This absolutely belongs on somebody's next album, and will stay in rotation till some things start changin'. - Jake Paine (@Citizen__Paine)
183rd f. R.F.C. (Smoke DZA, NYMLo, Al-Doe, & Chase N. Cashe) - "Castlevania"
Responsible for producing a whole bunch of highlights over the last few years like the Smoke DZA collaborations with Kendrick Lamar ("Ball Game") and Action Bronson ("Big Bad And Dangerous"), Bronx producer 183rd jumped a few more levels this week with the release of his free Game Room project. An instrumental album that respectfully samples video game scores from the 8, "super" 16 and 64-bit golden era, Game Room evokes both nostalgia and renewed interest in these compositions from the Nintendo lab as they are flipped by a forward-thinking Hip Hop producer to now blip and bang. One of my favorite memories from the days when you told people with a sense of pride and no "pause" that you "blew on your games" to get them to work was the theme from the Nintendo goth classic Castlevania. The bonus track heard here brings back Game Room's "Castlevania" beat for some of 183rd's hometown emcees to rhyme over. What should feel like a tacked on, throwaway track manages to feel like a perfect distillation of the ethos behind Game Room. Over the synthetic harpsichord, the bass line played by an organ made of binary code and the snare hits that sound like a radio at the end of the dial turned on for an eigth of a second, The R.F.C. crew comes prepared with rhymes that reference iconic games and do justice to 183rd's vision, closing out his project like a 64-bar fatality. No cheat codes necessary... -Michael Sheehan